Robert Kilroy-Silk

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Robert Kilroy-Silk
Member of the European Parliament
for the East Midlands
In office
10 June 2004 – 4 June 2009
Preceded by Nick Clegg
Succeeded by Position abolished
Member of Parliament
for Knowsley North
In office
9 June 1983 – 1 October 1986
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by George Howarth
Member of Parliament
for Ormskirk
In office
28 February 1974 – 9 June 1983
Preceded by Harold Soref
Succeeded by Position abolished
Personal details
Born (1942-05-19) 19 May 1942 (age 71)
Birmingham, Warwickshire, England
Nationality British
Political party Independent
Other political
Labour (1974–2004)
UKIP (2004–05)
Veritas (2005)
Spouse(s) Jan Beech (1963–present)
Alma mater London School of Economics
Occupation Television presenter

Robert Michael Kilroy-Silk (born 19 May 1942) is an English former politician, former independent Member of the European Parliament, and former television presenter, best known for his daytime talk show Kilroy. He has been a university lecturer and Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP). He stood successfully for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the 2004 election to the European Parliament, before leaving them in 2005 to found a new party called Veritas, from which he in turn resigned as leader later the same year.

Education and background[edit]


Kilroy-Silk was born in Birmingham, Warwickshire, the son of William Silk, a Royal Navy leading stoker, and his wife Minnie Rose Rooke. William Silk was lost at sea, age 22, whilst serving on HMS Charybdis which was torpedoed by German E-Boats on 23 October 1943, when Kilroy-Silk was 17 months old. In 1946 Rose married his best friend, John Kilroy, a car worker at the Rootes plant in Warwickshire, who adopted the young boy and gave him the first part of his surname.

In 1963, Kilroy-Silk married Jan Beech, a shop steward's daughter. They have a son, a daughter and a grandson.


He was educated at Saltley Grammar School, Saltley, Birmingham, and later attended the London School of Economics to study Politics and Economics [1] before he became a lecturer in politics at the University of Liverpool from 1966 to 1974.[2] He published a theoretical work, Socialism since Marx, in 1972.

Political career[edit]

Labour MP[edit]

He was a Labour MP for Ormskirk from 1974 to 1983 and for Knowsley North from 1983 to 1986. In an article for The Times in 1975 Kilroy-Silk argued that politics was not "compromises and bargains" or hankering after "a spurious consensus" but the function of government, particularly a Labour government, was "to impose its values on society. Its role is creative: to cast, so far as it is able, society in its image". Furthermore, socialists should not be worried about being accused of dictatorial powers; they must go forward with "a tint of arrogance".[3] The next year he told the newspaper that "the Labour Party must always be a class party, for it is a class war we are fighting".[4]

He was appointed Shadow Home Affairs spokesman, but resigned in 1985. In resigning his seat, he claimed that he had been victimised and assaulted by members of Militant tendency. He was reported to have had a scuffle with left-wing Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn.[5] He wrote a book about his experiences, entitled Hard Labour and subsequently left the Labour party.

UK Independence Party[edit]

Candidate in European Parliament elections[edit]

In 2004, Kilroy-Silk was recruited to the UK Independence Party (UKIP) during that year's European Parliament Election campaign, and presented one of the party's party political broadcasts. His appointment increased the profile of the party, as did the support by actress Joan Collins, who was persuaded by Kilroy-Silk to attend a UKIP press conference. Kilroy-Silk successfully stood for the Party in the East Midlands region.

The result (using a closed list form of proportional representation) was that UKIP scored 26.05 per cent of the vote in that region, just behind the Conservatives with 26.39 per cent. Kilroy-Silk was thus elected as a Member of the European Parliament in the second seat for his region.

Leadership ambitions[edit]

In the 2004 Hartlepool by-election UKIP came third, ahead of the Conservative Party. The next day, in an interview on Breakfast with Frost (BBC), he expressed an interest in leading his party and criticised the party's leader at that time, Roger Knapman. Following this, businessman Paul Sykes, a friend of Kilroy-Silk, announced his intention to cease his partial funding of UKIP and to return his support to the Conservatives, fearing that the euro-sceptic vote might be split. The branch chairmen of UKIP were canvassed on their opinion regarding Kilroy-Silk's challenge for the party leadership. Only a minority (13%) were sympathetic to him, a result which he objected to, owing to the small proportion of party members who had been consulted. Kilroy-Silk was threatened with disciplinary action if he continued, in the view of his opponents, to bring the party into disrepute.

On 27 October 2004, he officially announced that he had withdrawn from the UKIP whip in the European Parliament, branding the party "incompetent". However, he said that he would be staying on as a member of UKIP in an independent capacity, and would continue to challenge for the leadership.

UKIP's constitution states that 70 days' notice is required before a leadership ballot can take place. With the next general election in the UK expected in spring 2005, Kilroy-Silk pushed for an emergency general meeting of the party as early as possible. On 3 November 2004, Kilroy-Silk said he intended to be leader by Christmas, though this would have been impossible under the rules.

On 20 January 2005, Kilroy-Silk announced that he had left UKIP after nine months as a member.


On 30 January 2005, the plans to launch a new political party, Veritas, were confirmed. It was announced that UKIP's leader in the London Assembly, Damian Hockney, had defected to Veritas, becoming its first Deputy Leader.

The party was formally launched on 2 February 2005 at Hinckley Golf Club in Hinckley, Leicestershire. In the 2005 general election, Kilroy-Silk contested the seat of Erewash, but came fourth, barely saving his deposit. Kilroy-Silk attempted unsuccessfully to press charges against a man who he claimed "smashed a bottle of water against the side of his head" while Kilroy-Silk was being interviewed by a European television crew outside the Asda supermarket in Long Eaton, part of the Erewash constituency during the election campaign. Kilroy-Silk described this as a "deliberate, premeditated and cowardly attack by an adult man who should have known better". The alleged assailant stated that he merely squirted Kilroy-Silk with water from a plastic bottle before running away; this account was corroborated by the TV crew which filmed the incident. The police decided not to prosecute.

On 12 July 2005, party member Ken Wharton announced his intention to challenge Kilroy-Silk for the leadership, claiming party members are "not being looked after". Discontented party members set up the Veritas Members' Association to "put the truth back into Veritas".[6]

On 29 July 2005, Veritas announced the resignation of Kilroy-Silk as party leader.[7] In his resignation statement, he said: "It was clear from the general election result - and more recently that of the Cheadle by-election - that the electors are content with the old parties and that it would be virtually impossible for a new party to make a significant impact given the nature of our electoral system. We tried and failed."

Independent MEP[edit]

As of September 2008, Kilroy-Silk, who was elected to the European Parliament on the UKIP list, remained a member of the Veritas Party, but sat as an Independent MEP. It has been reported that Veritas members questioned why Kilroy-Silk was allowed to continue his party membership, with one calling him "just awful".[8]

Kilroy-Silk's name was absent from the list of candidates published on 7 May 2009 for the 2009 European Parliament election, which meant his membership was terminated when the European Parliament reconvened on 17 July 2009.[9]

Media career[edit]


His show Kilroy started on 24 November 1986 as Day To Day and ran until 2004, when it was cancelled by the BBC after an article entitled 'We owe Arabs nothing' by Kilroy-Silk[10] was published in the Sunday Express on 4 January of that year.


In 2001, Kilroy-Silk hosted a television programme on ITV1 called Shafted. It was a quiz-show based on answering questions and eliminating fellow contestants. At the end of the show, Kilroy-Silk would ask players whether they wished to "share" or to "shaft", with accompanying hand gestures. Kilroy-Silk's appearance on the show is frequently lampooned by panelists on Have I Got News for You, particularly his delivery of this tagline.

The show was axed after four episodes, and was listed as the worst British television show of the 2000s in the Penguin TV Companion (2006).[11]

Have I Got News For You[edit]

Kilroy-Silk has appeared as a guest on Have I Got News For You on one occasion, on the episode broadcast on 30 April 2004. The episode was notable for a heated exchange between Kilroy-Silk and his teammate Paul Merton, which resulted in Merton telling Kilroy-Silk to "shut up". It was later shown on disc two of Best of the Guest Presenters DVD release that Merton had actually said "shut the fuck up", but the profanity was removed in editing. Kilroy-Silk has frequently been ridiculed in episodes of the show.[citation needed]

Other television appearances[edit]

On 31 January 2005, a television programme, Kilroy: Behind the Tan, was broadcast on the BBC. The programme followed him from his election as an MEP for UKIP to his leaving and denouncement of the party.

In early February 2005, Kilroy-Silk worked on a Channel 4 television programme called Kilroy and the Gypsies. In the programme, he spent a week living with a family of Romany Gypsies at a campsite in Bedfordshire and speaking also to residents of surrounding villages.[12]

He was the first contestant to be voted out of the 2008 edition of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!. On 7 November 2009, he appeared as a panelist on the BBC's Question Time programme. In 2011, he appeared on Loose Women to discuss his new career as a novelist.


Arab comment controversy[edit]

The BBC cancelled the Kilroy show in January 2004 after an article entitled 'We owe Arabs nothing' by Kilroy-Silk[10] was published in the Sunday Express on 4 January. One passage reads:

We're told that the Arabs loathe us. Really? For liberating the Iraqis? For subsidising the lifestyles of people in Egypt and Jordan, to name but two, for giving them vast amounts of aid? For providing them with science, medicine, technology and all the other benefits of the West? They should go down on their knees and thank God for the munificence of the United States. What do they think we feel about them? That we adore them for the way they murdered more than 3,000 civilians on 11 September 2001 and then danced in the hot, dusty streets to celebrate the murders? That we admire them for the cold-blooded killings in Mombasa, Yemen and elsewhere? That we admire them for being suicide bombers, limb-amputators, women repressors?'

The article had originally been published in April 2003 by the same paper and 'republished in error' according to Kilroy-Silk.[13] On its first publication the article did not attract the same furore from the national press or provoke any known disciplinary action from the BBC. According to Faisal Bodi, a columnist for The Guardian, the reaction caused by the article's re-publication in 2004 was a measure of "the increasing organisation of the Muslim community". Bodi added:

Kilroy-Silk's suspension was precipitated by a flurry of web messages and emails circulated by various Muslim organisations notifying people of the outrage. The circulars from the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Islamic Human Rights Commission and the Islamic Affairs Central Network, to mention a few, were focused, informative and, above all, empowering. They contained a chronology of Kilroyisms, names and contacts of editors at the BBC and the Sunday Express, and instructions on how to make complaints. In the end, the BBC was left with little choice.[14]

The article was also strongly condemned by the Commission for Racial Equality, whose head, Trevor Phillips, said that the affair could have a "hugely unhelpful" effect. Faisal Bodi called for Kilroy-Silk to be prosecuted for incitement to racial hatred. He said that Kilroy-Silk had written statements critical of Muslims in 1989, during the Salman Rushdie affair and in a 1995 article in the Daily Express.[14] By contrast Ibrahim Nawar, the head of Arab Press Freedom Watch came out in support of Kilroy-Silk in a Daily Telegraph article, calling him "an advocate of freedom of expression" and saying that he agreed with much of what Kilroy-Silk had said about Arab regimes.[15]

Labour MP Andrew Dismore asked why the BBC had disciplined Kilroy-Silk but had not moved against Tom Paulin after he had made allegedly anti-semitic remarks. The BBC's defenders pointed out that Paulin appeared on BBC programmes only as a pundit and commentator, and was not employed as a presenter of a programme in his own right. Subsequent to losing his permanent position, Kilroy-Silk appeared on BBC programmes in the same capacity as Paulin, as an individual commentator no longer representative of the BBC.

According to the Daily Express, 50,000 people responded in a telephone poll supporting Kilroy-Silk's reinstatement.

On 4 December 2004 a man threw a bucket of manure over Kilroy-Silk before he was due to make an appearance on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions?. David McGrath, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, was later convicted of the attack. He was given a conditional discharge, and ordered to pay £200 costs to Kilroy-Silk.

A spokeswoman for Kilroy-Silk told The Observer, "He is not a racist at all - he employs a black driver", a quote which is sometimes incorrectly attributed to Kilroy-Silk himself.[16]

Anti-Irish controversy[edit]

In 1992 Kilroy made a comment regarding Ireland and the Irish in his Daily Express column under the guise of attacking Ray MacSharry, a former Irish government minister and EU commissioner at that time. He dismissed Ireland as a 'country peopled by priests, peasants and pixies'. The Daily Express was forced to apologise to MacSharry and the Irish people in general as a result.[17]

Marks & Spencer[edit]

In February 2007, Kilroy-Silk accused Marks & Spencer, the UK clothing chain, of installing distorting mirrors in its ladies' changing rooms to produce a more flattering effect. Marks and Spencer denied Kilroy-Silk's claims, saying they were "at a loss as to what he might be referring to".[18]

European Parliamentary role[edit]

In August 2005, four of the MEPs for the region (Clark, Heaton-Harris, Helmer and Whitehead) sent a joint letter to President of the European Parliament Josep Borrell to complain of Kilroy-Silk: "He seems to have done little or no work as a constituency MEP for the East Midlands. This leaves five MEPs to do the work of six and the electorate have been short-changed". They went on to complain that Kilroy-Silk was not "fulfilling the pledge he made on becoming an MEP, to serve the electorate of his region" and to call for him to "either do the job for which he is paid, or get out and leave it to those who can."[19] Such a complaint is unprecedented and Kilroy-Silk refused to comment on it; the European Parliament does not have any power to expel a member and Borell has taken no action.[19]

Over three years later, in November 2008, Kilroy-Silk was again attacked by one of the same MEPs (Derek Clark). This time he complained about Kilroy-Silk receiving his parliamentary wage while also being paid to appear in the reality TV show I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!.[20]


  1. ^ Caldwell, Christopher (9 January 2005). "The Anti Europeanist". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  2. ^ Valelly, Paul (5 June 2004). "Robert Kilroy-Silk; the self-styled saviour of Britain". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2 February 2009. 
  3. ^ Robert Kilroy-Silk, 'Labour must not be frightened of making socialism work', The Times, 29 April 1975.
  4. ^ Comrie-Thomson, Paul; Coombe, Ian (8 November 2010). "The UK in the 1970s". Counterpoint. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  5. ^ Robert Chalmers "Interview: Here Comes Trouble", Independent on Sunday, 6 June 2004. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.
  6. ^ "Kilroy faces leadership challenge". BBC News. 12 July 2005. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  7. ^ "Kilroy quits as leader of Veritas". BBC News. 29 July 2005. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  8. ^ Tempest, Matthew (29 July 2005). "Kilroy quits as Veritas leader". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  9. ^ Kilroy-Silk to leave European Parliament
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^ The Daily Telegraph (London) |url= missing title (help). [dead link]
  12. ^ Honigsbaum, Mark (12 February 2005). "Political caravan no easy ride for Kilroy-Silk". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  13. ^ "Kilroy defends Arab states attack". BBC News. 11 January 2004. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  14. ^ a b Bodi, Faisal (12 January 2004). "Islamophobia should be as unacceptable as racism". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  15. ^ Nawar, Ibrahim (11 January 2004). "Kilroy-Silk is right about the Middle East, say Arabs". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  16. ^ Smith, David (11 January 2004). "One keystroke that rocked Kilroy-Silk". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "M&S denies Kilroy mirrors claim". BBC News. 13 February 2007. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  19. ^ a b Stares , Justin. Kilroy-Silk does 'little or no work' and should quit, say MEPs. The Telegraph, 13 August 2005. "A cross-party coalition has called for Robert Kilroy-Silk to quit the European Parliament on the grounds that he seldom attends and does "little or no work" for his East Midlands constituency. [...] His four regional colleagues - Christopher Heaton-Harris (Conservative), Roger Helmer (Conservative), Phillip Whitehead (Labour) and Derek Clark (Ukip) - said they "deplore" Mr Kilroy-Silk's non-attendance. "He seems to have done little or no work as a constituency MEP for the East Midlands. This leaves five MEPs to do the work of six and the electorate have been short-changed," they wrote. "Mr Kilroy-Silk should either do the job for which he is paid, or get out and leave it to those who can." The parliament has no power to remove Mr Kilroy-Silk, who is understood to have attended the minimum number of plenary sessions required to be eligible for his parliamentary allowances.
  20. ^ Mason, Chris (15 November 2008). "MEPs attack jungle-bound Kilroy". BBC News. Retrieved 4 May 2009. 

External links[edit]

European Parliament
Preceded by
Member of European Parliament for East Midlands
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Harold Soref
Member of Parliament for Ormskirk
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Knowsley North
Succeeded by
George Howarth
Party political offices
New political party Leader of Veritas
Succeeded by
Patrick Eston